Aleksey Evdokimov’s doom metal tome makes for essential reading.
The Doom Metal Lexicanum is not the first book about doom metal, but as the first in almost fifteen years, it is the hefty tome the remarkably healthy modern scene deserves. Meticulously constructed by Russian journalist Aleksey Evdokimov, the book features over 350 artists and offers an insightful overview of one of the metal genre’s most intriguing offshoots. Published by writer Dayal Patterson’s Cult Never Dies/Crypt Publications, the 300-page volume comes with striking artwork by David Thiérrée, and includes essays by doom legend Sami Hynninen, formerly of Reverend Bizarre.
Intrigued by the idea of a man who would take on such a seemingly endless mission, we spoke to Evdokimov about the impossible task of comprising the storied history of doom metal, and what led him to take on such a daunting task.
So, first off, why doom? Of all the subgenres, what inspired you to write about this one in particular?
I’ve felt an urge for slow, melancholic music since the late 90s when I discovered bands like Tiamat, Paradise Lost, Anathema and those cool bands I saw on the Beauty In Darkness video compilation. So actually, it started with death-doom. But as the years passed I plunged deeper into the doom swamp and entered the realm of traditional doom through Abysmal Grief and Reverend Bizarre. So when I got a chance to join doomamantia.com in 2010 (after a few years of writing for Russian site metallibrary.ru), it was the point when I started to learn more and more about the genre.
Of course, I listen and write about other sorts of music like progressive rock, death doom, some hard rock, and I still love old school metal bands, but 90% of everything I’ve written for years is about doom. At some point I needed to draw the line, to sum up my experience and to pay homage to the bands I respect or love.
There have been books about doom metal before, of course, but did the lack of texts on the subgenre inspire you to create your own?
I know only about Garry Sharpe’s A-Z of Doom, Goth & Stoner Metal, it was more than ten years ago and I didn’t read it.
I wanted to spread the word about great new bands and to remind about heroes of the past. You know, there’s a lot of bands nowadays who play really great music, but people still focus on well-known names like Candlemass, Pentagram, Saint Vitus. You can easily discover the [modern] outfits who are, well, I’d like to say equal, but some people could disagree with that. So, there’s potent, boiling fresh blood in Doom Cult, it’s a crime to ignore it.
We live in the digital era, but there are people who still value the power of physical editions – me, for example. Doom needed something ‘carved in stone’. I can’t pretend that I’m the best person who could do it, but I’ve done the best that time and paper format allowed me to do.
To what extent did the strength of the current doom scene inspire you to create the book now?
I’ll just name the bands with one full-length album in their discographies who really inspired me and kept my motivation during the work: Bathsheba, Haunted, The Hazytones, Messa, Night Gaunt, The Hazytones, Lord Vigo, The Ossuary, Year Of The Cobra and so on. A lot of ‘older’ bands did inspire me as well, and since I’ve finished the work on the text more new names have appeared. I have said it before and I’m going to say it again: it was really, really hard to stop including the bands in the finished book.
The scene grows almost every day, so it’s impossible to do an Ultimate Doom Metal Encyclopedia. I see Lexicanum as a proper, really good guide through the realms of traditional doom and related sub-genres, from epic doom to stoner doom or psychedelic doom, even though there’s a few times I’ve almost crossed the line, picking up on the bands who’re on the vert verge of the genre.
What’s your personal history with doom? How did you become a fan of the genre?
I’d like to add only one thing to those things I mentioned above: [Reverend Bizarre’s] Sami Hynninen was damn convincing with his “One more time hammers been raised to crush the skulls of heretics!”
What’s interesting about the book is how you link the music with some of the themes it is often associated with, such as fantasy and horror (Lovecraft etc.) and even witchcraft and black magic, where did the idea for this originate? Was it planned from the outset or did patterns emerge during the book’s creation?
It was an alternate option, ‘plan B’, so to say. I did review enough new albums to mention the simple fact of how influential horror movies, Lovecraft and witch-related themes are amongst the doom bands. It was on the surface.
At that moment I had a pretty big text about Lovecraft’s stories in the songs of doom bands, and you’ll find this article in the book as an appendix. Again – I would add a few more stories and a few more bands, but the deadline was upon us. This text is well-balanced, it has a proper structure as it’s split into three parts following three cycles of Lovecraft’s stories: Dream Cycle, Cthulhu Mythos and so-called Macabre Tales. I’m almost happy how it looks.
Witches aren’t something obvious, maybe, but Witchfinder General did set the trend, and this trend is popular because it’s all about sexy ladies, most of the time. I can tell a few examples of times when bands use witch trials as a metaphor, but in the book you’ll find Sami Hynninen’s text describing appearances of witches in Reverend Bizarre’s discography, he has a better answer. There’s some food for brains, he gave excellent answers and shows some cracks in my theory.
I also had a text about different rituals appearing in doom songs (from Satanic Mass to Voodoo rituals and Indian Ghost Dance), but that was borrowing from Wikipedia – we couldn’t use it in the book with good conscience.
Horror movie influences deserve their own book, and I guess that I saw a metal-related book, but I can’t remember the title. Let’s say it’s a vast theme to explore, and I can imagine how I could write it, but I can only imagine it – it’s technically difficult to do such a book, as I see it. I’d advise you to check out the latest albums of Arcana 13 and Bretus – both full-lengths are based entirely on old school horror films.
But to sum up, one of Lexicanum’s readers did write me and we discussed this topic more carefully. The result was that even those themes mentioned above (witches, horror movies, rituals, etc.) were born from religious traditions or prejudices. Yes, we can talk about strict Christian impacts, you can find it in the lyrics or image of Pentagram, Trouble, early Saint Vitus and Candlemass and some modern bands like Evangelist, Pylon or Cryptic Sermon use it too. But usually this theme appears in anti-Christian form. The dark side is more attractive, and the official Church does the best it can to make people hate it.
Cult Never Dies seems like a smart choice as publisher, considering their previous releases and Dayal Patterson’s own works, did you find working with them gave you something that other outlets couldn’t provide?
The work with Dayal Patterson gave me the pleasure of collaborating with a like-minded person who absolutely understands what I want to tell, and who knows how to fulfill it in a better way. He helped (and still helps) a lot to rise the Lexicanum project to higher level. I’m meaning not just the promo-side of our collaboration, but the very production. Yes, he wanted to publish it in A5, but in the end it was obvious that we couldn’t fit all the text in this format. Thus now you have this great tome with striking artwork, done by David Thierree.
And I’d also like to mention Mike Liassides and Tana Haugo Kawahara, who proved my text before I sent it to Dayal for final editing.
Was it tough to choose what bands to include or which to leave out?
To a point – yes. I started with a list of bands almost 550 names long, it was obvious that I couldn’t get them all in one book. It was about balance – I needed to have as many bands as I can, and I needed to write proper texts for them. I didn’t want just to list their albums and band members. I needed to put there some reviews, interviews, and quotes.
And besides that – I only met Dayal Patterson in March 2017. I mean, till March I just went through my list writing about almost every band I had there. But when you have the publisher, you should tell him how big your book is, so I had to name the number of bands and the approximate size of the text.
I didn’t include a few bands who didn’t answer my questions, as I couldn’t add anything special about them and it seems that they weren’t interested in it. I didn’t include a good number of bands because there just wasn’t any free space at all at a certain point. Yes, it’s sad, but people should understand that we can’t have 500 pages of a big book in A4 – the shipping will be damn expensive then.
Well, I have doubts about some bands who started with slightly different kinds of music (Evoke Thy Lords or Pantheist, who played death doom in their early years for example), so there’re a few bands with bigger parst of stoner or psychedelic rock in their songs, but they’re just a few.
Two people asked me about Paul Chain, and it seems that I should explain again. I know how Chain is influential in Italy, I don’t deny it, but there was no chance to interview him. His story and discography are pretty long, I believe that he deserves his own book and I wonder why there’s no separate book about his project.
And though I stated that Lexicanum doesn’t deal with extreme sorts of doom, people continue to ask “where’s My Dying Bride?”
How do you know when a book of this scale is finished? How do you decide how much research is enough?
I didn’t decide it, it was Dayal who told me “enough” or “too much!” (or was it William Blake?). I needed someone who could stop me, it was him. If I didn’t meet Dayal and Cult Never Dies, then I probably would have continued to write, even now.
Was researching for this book a gruelling process or did you find yourself enjoying it? Did you make new discoveries and connections you weren’t aware existed beforehand?
At first it was easy, as I just went through the interviews I’d done before, but then some obstacles appeared on my way: such as the bands who didn’t answer my questions and a few tight periods on the job when I had to work much more than usual – such things complicated the process of enjoying it. But, there were great periods when I did correspondence with some bands, when I did re-listen to some discographies, when I did read the lyrics whilst listening to the songs.
I faced too many mentions of themes we were talking above (Lovecraft, movies, etc.), so I discovered a few bands with more realistic lyrics. I needed it, and it was interesting to read carefully some texts of Count Raven, for example. A lot of bands have much more to offer than just riffs and trendy lyrics.
Did you find that you needed a bit of a break from doom by the end of it?
Bull’s eye! But it’s impossible. I had a week or so of rest, but even during that week I received some promos for reviews and so on. Sometimes it was difficult on a physical level to listen to another slow and low album, so for a period I switched on lighter music, it helped.
But now I’ve returned to the same insane regime. Besides regular reviews and interviews, I’m already thinking through the idea for the next book.
What’s next on your agenda? Can we expect any similar works in the future?
Honestly, I can’t tell you that I want it, but I know how to do it and I have a clear plan on how to do it faster. It depends on a few factors, but the book about the extreme doom metal scene is on my mind.
Doom Metal Lexicanum is out now via Cult Never Dies/Crypt Publications. Pick up a copy here.
Words: George Parr